Wha!? PR people who don’t answer the phone??

memo with urgent messageWe’ve all heard of the “good karma” e-mail. “Hi. This is So-And-So and I see you’ve recently been writing on topics X, Y and Z. I have clients in a number of related areas who might be able to serve as a source for you. Please let me know if I can ever be of any help…”

I love good karma e-mails. No pitching. No berating. Just an “I’m here to help.”

My co-workers and I like to take this to a new level. We are huge believers in helping journalists even when we hand them an expert who is not our client. We hold our relationships with journalists in very high regard.

Exhibit A – I have a fantastic relationship with a wonderful listings editor at a business publication I pitch often. We recently pitched her something that wasn’t a great fit but she was looking for something in the realm of what we had brought up. She was specifically looking for a banking or residential real estate professional to give expert quotes on the housing tax credit. We don’t currently have a client that fits her needs, but within ten minutes of her request I called three banks (with which my firm has no affiliation) I thought might be fitting. The message (when given the opportunity to leave a message) I left was along the lines of: “Hi, my name is Kate Ottavio and I work with Co-Communications. I have a listings editor at XYZ Business Journal and she’s looking for expert commentary on…I think this might be a great opportunity for your company to weigh in…Again, this is for an article (cough, hack, free publicity on a silver platter) and I wanted to see if we could help this editor out. Thanks!”

Here’s how my outreach went. I’ll leave the names of the establishments out.

1) The phone rang and rang and rang . . . And then rang some more. I called a media relations/PR person on staff with this bank and he didn’t even have a voicemail.

2) I left a voicemail. Still no word.

3) I left a voicemail and got a call back 24 hours later.

We all know where we stand with examples one and two. Three? What if a journalist called and was on deadline? There’s a lost opportunity if I ever saw one.

One rule I live by: If I can’t get back to a journalist (or anyone really) immediately with something he or she needs, I will reply with an estimated time of delivery. This lets the journalist know that you did in fact receive his or her e-mail and that you will be working to get the job done efficiently. I almost giggle at people who get back to me 24 hours after first contact because I try to move as swiftly as possible when something had been requested of me. I am driven to get things done and get them done in a timely manner. That’s such an imperative piece of our business!

Am I being OCD? Or considerate? Do you have guidelines to follow or funny stories about the longest response time ever? Share, share away!